Birthday parties are work! A child, really has no idea what it takes to put a birthday party together and rightfully so. But moms? We know all too well. So let me start out with this question, “Do you feel obligated to have a full-blown party each year for your child?” Don’t.
It is more than acceptable to only have a “party” every other year or even less frequently. Maybe you would rather have family gatherings and only invite children’s friends for big birthdays like turning 5, 10, 13, or 16 – whatever birthdays you feel are most significant. Keep in mind that when you don’t have the party with friends it frees you up to do other great things with your kids. Let me give you a couple of examples.
On my daughter’s birthday last year, she just wanted to go to a hotel. So we made a reservation at a fun hotel in downtown Denver and just the two of us spent the night. We went out to eat, stayed up late playing games, and walked around the block to Starbuck’s in the morning. You would think I took her to the moon – she was so delighted!
For our son’s last two birthday’s he opted out of parties for family events: a camping trip and a water theme park to which he invited just one friend. These were both incredibly fun and incredibly simple. Plus, rather than spending money on lots of food, decorations, and treat bags, we were able to put the difference into a special gift that he really wanted.
Now that we’ve dealt with the type of celebration, a plan is needed. If your child is old enough, ask him for some ideas of what he might like to do. On the other hand, even if your child is old enough it might be better just to suggest some ideas that you know will be fun and not over-the-top. If your child is really into a character, movie, or book, that’s great. It’s easy to find paper goods and pre-made favors.
Some creative ideas take more time to pull together, but it is possible. One year my daughter wanted a Candy Land birthday party. I don’t need to tell you that it was next to impossible to find anything “Candy Land” to accessorize! Instead I chose to focus on the candy theme and create a few distinctive activities including something as simple as a coloring table with printed sheets of the Candy Land characters.
Beyond picking a theme, you’ll need to decide on how to layout the party, both the time activities will take and the places that will be designated for each. Make a list of supplies well in advance so that you have time to find particular items at the best price. Party stores are often over-priced, so try craft stores or discount stores. And don’t underestimate what you already might have on hand! For the Candy Land party, I used table cloths, tea sets, and servers I already had on hand. Then purchased additional tea cups and saucers at Goodwill. The only paper products were small plates and doilies!
Now about invitations… Can I encourage you to take a few extra minutes and create a hand-made invitation? Go ahead and purchase a pack of blank cards and envelopes in either plain white or colored. Check out the craft store. In the same aisle, chances are you’ll find stickers, die cuts, or some kind of three-dimensional decoration. Keep with the theme. Allow your child to help. Handwrite or type the message on the computer and print the invitations.
And while we are on the subject of invitations, think through the appropriate number of guests and frankly, who should be invited. As difficult as it might seem, sometimes the best thing to do is keep parties small. If you’re renting out the skating rink then by all means invite the entire 4th grade, but if you want to keep things simple I highly recommend something on a smaller scale. When dealing with younger kids I once heard the rule “only as many children as the number of years old they are turning.” Well, this might work until they turn 6… then parties can turn too big fast! Think about who your child enjoys being with most. Who will play nicely together?
The party planning can be almost as fun as the event. Have fun preparing for the special day with your child. Then enjoy every minute of the party!
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
What fun party ideas have you and your family used to celebrate a birthday?
By Jenna Hallock
Wife to Mark, Mom of two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Family Time Training
First seen on Mom In Progress (www.jennahallock.com) on Oct. 12, 2010.